Rollins Benched Again
He had committed similar sins long before they signed him to a three-year, $33 million contract in December.
He has been pulled from games before for not hustling. He has been scratched from the lineup for being late to the ballpark. Charlie Manuel spoke with Rollins in Milwaukee on Aug. 16 after Rollins strolled to first base in the sixth inning and did not appear to try to break up a double play in the eighth inning in an Aug. 15 game in Miami.
Manuel said that afternoon in Milwaukee, “He should be running hard from now on. We’ll see.”
But exactly two weeks later Manuel pulled Rollins from today’s 3-2 victory over the New York Mets when Rollins did not hustle to first base on an infield popup in the sixth inning. Rollins immediately dropped his head upon contact and lightly jogged to first. Only when Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese dropped the ball did Rollins pick up his pace.
If Rollins had been running hard upon contact, he could have been standing on second base.
Rollins eventually stole second base, but the damage had been done. Manuel talked to him in the dugout after he came off the field – Rollins said little to his manager — and benched him. Rollins remained on the bench the remainder of the game.
“I just got to a place where it’s a reflection on myself,” Manuel said. “It’s a reflection on our team. It reflects on our organization.”
The Phillies take the good with the bad with Rollins. They take the fact he is one of the best defensive shortstops in a baseball and a middle of the pack hitter – his .714 OPS entering Thursday ranked 12th out of 24 qualifying shortstops in baseball – with the fact he will not hustle every time out of the box.
The reality is they must live with that.
“Hell, no,” Rollins said, when asked afterward if he planned to talk to reporters. “He already told you what happened. There you go.”
But asked two weeks ago why he does not run hard on every play, Rollins said, “You’ll end up breaking down, just the wear and tear on your body. Why do people do a lot of things? It’s just the way it is. It’s like, if you’re a pitcher why don’t you throw every ball at 95 mph? Sometimes it’s not going to happen. Hustle doesn’t take talent, but there are other things that go on that sometimes you just get upset about.”
Rollins was upset he popped up again in the sixth inning. Rollins entered the afternoon tied for the big-league lead with 21 percent of his balls in play infield fly outs.
Manuel does not consider that an excuse.
He also knew he had to do something this time. He cannot let Rollins, who has been in the organization longer than anybody, continue to jog down the line without repercussions. If it continued, how could Manuel punish a lesser player for the same act?
“Yeah, I could see where it could affect them,” Manuel said of the other players in the Phillies clubhouse. “Yes. Yeah, I do. … It’s important to hold onto what I said. It’s up to me to back up what I say. With the conversation Jimmy and I had I think we understand one another. I hope the guys on our team understand me too.”
Make no mistake: Rollins’ lack of hustle has irked teammates. But only Manuel has the power to do anything about it. He would not say if Rollins would play Friday’s series opener in Atlanta.
“I don’t know. That’s between Jimmy and I,” he said.
Well, until Manuel fills out that lineup card. Then everybody will know.
So, Charlie, how big of a problem is this?
“It’s no problem at all if we hustle,” he said.
Easier said than done.